“Menopause is a natural occurrence in women and is defined as that point in time when periods stop permanently. As menopause approaches, cycles can become erratic and by age 40, some of the initial hormonal changes associated with peri-menopause (“peri” meaning “near”) are well underway. It is supported and encouraged by complex and intricate brain and body changes, inevitable and often overwhelming” (Northrup 2001).
With a well balanced body and mind, it can be a smooth transition, but for some women, for various reasons, unpleasant symptoms can occur.
Progesterone is a primary hormone of fertility and pregnancy. Progesterone is one of two main hormones, the other being estrogen, made by the ovaries of menstruating women. Leading up to menopause, progesterone levels begin to decline, sometimes 10-15 years before the last period. During menopause progesterone levels decrease close to zero.
Anovulatory cycles are cycles in which peri-menopausal women do not ovulate even though they continue to menstruate, so do not produce progesterone, leaving estrogen unapposed and dominating.
The ability of the follicles to mature an egg and relese it may begin “spluttering” a decade before actual menopause, creating menstrual cycles which are anovulatory. If there is no ovulation, progesterone levels drop dramatically and estrogen dominates the hormonal environment. Symptoms of weight gain, water retention, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances and mood swings consequently may occur. During this time the ovaries continue to produce estrogen unbalanced by progesterone and referred to as “estrogen dominance”.
Based on the current research material available, it appears that a deficiency in progesterone before and at the time of menopause could greatly contribute to the hormonal imbalances that create the symptoms of menopause. This deficiency of progesterone may certainly by attributed to poor nutrition, lack of exercise and high stresss levels.
While there is a physiological process involved in menopause, menopause is much more than simply a biological event. Social and cultural factors contribute to how women react to menopause. In some cultures of the world, women look forward to menopause because it brings greater respect and is viewed as a sign of divine blessing and great wisdom.
The monthly cycle of reproductive hormones that tends to keep women focused on the needs and feelings of others, can be converted to one of directing more of their energies towards the world outside of home and family, which may appear as a great and inviting, untapped resource for exploration, creative expression and self esteem. As the vision obscuring veil created by hormones of reproducton begins to lift, a woman’s youthful fire and spirit are often rekindled, together with long diverted desires and creative drives.
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